Pointless Nostalgia Video Presents: Harvey’s Bristol Cream

I believe that hate, like love, is within all of us, and that we have a need to hate as much as we have a need to love. It can be a cleansing, cathartic emotion, as long as it is expressed in a healthy, non-violent fashion.

Assuming this is true, why do we hate certain things? Is it nature or nurture? Would you hate the same things you hate if you were born in Morocco, or Bavaria, or Upper Mongolia?

I can’t answer that for certain. My gut feeling is that there are certain things I would not hate if I came from a different background, simply because I wouldn’t care about them. My vitriol for Chipper Jones and Roger Clemens would probably be diminished if I was born in Sri Lanka and had no interest in baseball.

But there are other things I am certain I would hate no matter what, because they are so eminently hateable, they transcend culture, race, and creed. I shall discuss one of them today.

First, some background: The 1980s gave us many, many bad things, one of which was the proliferation of Wine Product. Not wine, but not not-wine, either. This led in turn to the Wine Product commercial, which came in varying shades of horrible.

For instance, the Bruce Willis Seagram’s ads, made at the height of his popularity and ubiquity. I hesitate to even call them bad because, as is the case with pretty much everything he’s ever done, Bruce seems so self-conscious of his own smug brand of douchery. His every smirk silently communicates, I know this is all bullshit. I almost have to admire him.

These ads, however, are not the focus of this post (and probably deserve their own analysis, which we may get to at a future date). The commercial I have in mind belongs to a different category of Wine Product, the kind that actually tried to masquerade as wine.

Back in the 80s, you still couldn’t advertise straight-up, non-beer booze on TV. But you could run ads for this type of alcoholic beverage. The kind of cheap, wine-esque swill you still see in supermarkets and bodegas.

The affordability of these products was never emphasized in any way. In fact, the bottlers went to great lengths to insist that their stuff was enjoyed by jet setting glitterati. Remember, this was the same era as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, when people actually watched a show that did nothing but remind them how many wonderful things they could never have. (Jesus, the 80s were gross.)

A prime example: This ad for Riunite, in which rich young things ski down the slopes grabbing bottles of Riunite as they slalom, on their way to a mountaintop barbecue.

Even as a kid, ads like this angered me. There was something so venal about trying to sell something so cheap (in several senses of the word) as a ticket to affluence to the poor slobs who could afford no better. And in retrospect, it seems even more gross, as the 80s were the decade when the American working class took its last gasp before a slow extinction.

But this Riunite commercial isn’t the object of my hatred. There was one ad that stood out, one that filled me with an absolute, undying, white hot hatred I still have to this day. 

Truth be told, I couldn’t even remember what product this was for, until I tweeted about it yesterday and received a link from WFMU’s own Evan “Funk” Davies (who can be heard tonight and every Wednesday at 9pm). Turns out, it was a commercial for Harvey’s Bristol Cream, and it is every bit as infuriating as I remember.

There are many, many things to hate about this ad. The jingle is terrible. The weird, contrapuntal spoken word duet part in the middle of said jingle (“upper crrrrusty!”) is nauseating. And the guests at the party look like a second grader’s idea of Rich Fancy People. But what really pushes my feelings into the realm of Super Hate is the last line, and the Patrick Bateman-esque bastard who says it, in his fake Pierce Brosnan accent.

The last line of this ad has rung in my head for the last 20+ years. Just hearing it is like a boxing bell, making me jump up with my fists clenched, ready to start swinging. If I ever found the man who uttered it–or better yet, the ad wizard who wrote it–I would pummel this man with all my might, and I would not stop until someone pulled me off him.

Here it is, folks. Brace yourselves.

“Your palace or mine.” Ugh. Go die, Anonymous Smug Guy.